Where we’ve been, where we’ll be

• Working backwards in time, starting with the future, we will be at Heroes Con this weekend — always guaranteed to be a good time. Guests are here, Indie Island is here, the panel schedule, where they are taping a month’s worth of episodes of “The Tom Spurgeon Show”, is here.

If you have some news for HeroesCon, send it to us and we’ll post it Thursday. Send it to the usual place.

• Today we’re moving offices at Publishers Weekly, a move which has necessitated yet another spin round what to keep and what to toss, especially as we’re going to a much smaller space. And let me tell you, as time goes by, those darned periodicals become less and less appealing. In fact, in conversation after conversation over the weekend, the utter disposability of the 32-page format was discussed. Despite the $3.99 a pop price tag. And how sometimes you can’t give those things away, even after you paid $3.99 for them.

gomes cosby Where weve been, where well be

• Much of the weekend was spent at the wedding of Michelle Gomes and Nathan Cosby. The bride is formerly of Virgin Comics and now the Food Network. The groom is an associate editor at Marvel Comics. Aside from the great beauty of the bride and the idyllic — but blazing hot — seaside setting, the most notable aspect of the affair was a Bollywood style dance performed by the groomsmen – Dennis Calero, Fred Van Lente, Mark Paniccia, Tim Dillon, and Arune Singh. A new standard for all comic book weddings has been set. Congratulations to the happy couple!

• Before that, there was a lot more packing and purging and trips to the storage unit — Bob Morales, you are a friend forever — and prior to that, BEA.

• I wanted to get more of my BEA thoughts down here before they faded away entirely. Our early morning panel on big name authors in graphic novels went very well and was well attended. Moderator Rich Johnson made sure the audience participated, as well. I think I would characterize this year’s show, comics-wise, anyway, as “all eyes on Evanovich” as the 100,000 first printing for the new Janet Evanovich graphic novel is a huge leap for Dark Horse. On the no-brainer side, if only 10 percent of her regular readers pick up the book, it will do just fine. On the scary side, most of her readers are women middle-aged and above — a category not well served by the comics industry at this point. I know at least one man reads Evanovich, but it’s still a big gamble that everyone is watching closely. On the plus side, Dark Horse’s Dirk Wood described orders thus far as “shockingly good.” On the minus side, the Barnaby books aren’t among Evanovich’s best selling series. But on the double plus side, she’s sold 90 million books in the US, and Dark Horse’s main marketing effort is to showcase the book outside the comics market.

• Why are there so many wacky people at BEA? I’m serious. I’m used to the zanies at comic-cons, but at Book Expo they take on a whole new flavor. For one thing, once people see you have a Publishers Weekly badge, they think you know how to get their book published, and you have to listen to some spiel about a puppy that can smell things, without being rude, and that gets old fast. Also, so new agey! While I was innocently trying to get a beer at the Wiley booth with Steve Saffel, we were accosted by some guy who wanted to heal us with the light, which somehow necessitated painful squeezes to the webbing between my thumb and forefinger. (And yes, just to show I’m as new agey as the next nutter, I know that is a powerful nexus of nerves for the whole body, so thanks a lot, buddy!)

• Even with all that, people are still wondering when Book Expo will become a more public event. It’s no secret that the publishing industry is in flux, and the book show is seen as being “troubled.” While there was definitely a lot of business going on for those who were smart enough to do it, some think that BEA could take a page from the Comic-Con playbook, at least as far as translating the excitement of readers and reading into the show. Reading books is exciting and fires the imagination. Selling books is not as interesting. Perhaps this evolution is already happening in some ways. I saw a lot more long lines for just about anyone signing a book, even authors who weren’t “fan favorites,” so people seem to want to get in on whatever action there is.

bea2010abrams Where weve been, where well be

Along those same lines, the Abrams booth was by far the most imaginative with this giant typewriter setup. I’m not saying that BEA should become E3 with exploding helicopters and EEE-cup babes. But once again, the literary medium is the most imaginative, intellectual and passionate medium of them all — there’s no reason why it can’t be presented in a clever, thought-provoking way.

The 2011 show will be three days instead of two because many foreign buyers thought the two-day format was just too short. That may be true but I noticed that at 4:30 pm on Thursday, the last day of the show, the floor was still packed and buzzing, whereas on a three-day show, by 2 o’clock the place is a ghost town. I understand the foreign issues but keeping that excitement going should be one of the main concern of the show runners.

Comments

  1. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I will be moderating a lot of panels at Heroes Con, but I want to stress to anyone that might want to go to one that in no way will the focus be on me. The focus will be squarely on all the great cartoonists I’ll be lucky to get to talk to. I look forward to a hard-working but fun weekend that’s not about me but about comics, and I apologize if volunteering to do so many interviews was somehow distasteful.

    I’m not sure why I’ve become the refreshed target of passive-aggressive criticism from the Beat, but I guess I should feel honored she squeezed in some time to paint me as an egotist between running pictures of herself and talking about her bar stories.

  2. I fully support Abrams’ move to turn BEA into the setting for a Silver Age Batman story.

  3. Martha Thomases says:

    No, the Abrams booth needed David Bowie singing “That’s Motivatio!”

  4. On the price of a comic book.

    my rule: if it’s good, its worth it…if not, well, it’s not.

    I look at the price of everything else in comparrison and the comics are a bit pricy overall. I follow talent more than characters.

    can we please switch to monthly $9.95 square bound format books that have more pages, letter columns and interaction with the fans. This is the way to go in the long run…unless we can have the european method work here.

    I think the price increase will also weed out a lot of those people that do their usual “buying without reading” purchaces . The “zombies” that just pic up titles because they have for years.

    and no, I have not had a page increase in over 2 years…and for certain books, I take a major page rate cut to have them come out where the company does not lose money.

    Jimmy.

  5. and a big congrats to Michelle and Nathan!!!

  6. Jimmy,
    The publishers won’t do it because the publishers will lose money (in the short term).

    Now, what I would love to see:
    “Shonen Jump”style magazines from DC and/or Marvel.

    The magazines are big thick anthologies.

    The stories are presented on cheap paper in black and white. There could be a color section to promote a new story, as well as a slick color magazine section for advertising and editorial.

    Trade collections would have the color artwork on nicer paper.

    Each magazine is a weekly, on sale for one month.

    The only stories which continue from issue to issue would be the “family” stories, like “Batman: Knightfall”, or perhaps a miniseries.

    Each issue has popular “anchors” which sell the magazine, with less popular stories in the back of the magazine.

    It is disposable, although, just like the Disney Taschenbuecher in Germany, fans could still collect them.

    Publishers would use marketing techniques honed in Japan to gauge popularity.

    Publishers could use these titles to develop new talent, experiment with new and forgotten characters, and reprint older stories.

    Talent is paid a flat page rate, with a share of the magazine royalties. Greater royalties are paid when the trade collection is sold.

    Publishers could target specific demographics with specific magazines. Vertigo could have a monthly, Johnny DC, perhaps a paranormal romance title…

    And, of course, once the issue goes off sale, the stories are digitized and offered online. Subscribers to the magazine get free access to the online archive, chat rooms, exclusives…

  7. “my rule: if it’s good, its worth it…if not, well, it’s not.”

    I agree in principal, but even the best comics on the stands make it tough to plop down that four bucks.

    Happily, by abandoning the brick and mortar comic shop and going with an online discount service, I’m only paying about $2.40 for that $4 book…postponing that inevitable day when I will stop buying the “pamphlets” for good. At some point, the increasing cover price will exceed even the budget and self-justifications of the fanboy-addict demographic and simply stop selling….and I think that day is closer than it is farther away.

  8. The Beat says:

    Come on, Tom, that was a pretty obvious joke. I wish it had been funnier. And I was trying to compliment your Con report — it is the industry standard. I’m sorry I offended you with my comments.

  9. I feel $3.99 is over inflation – especially for titles that require no more than 10 to 15 minutes to read.

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around the reason as to why is Marvel charging $3.99 for a Fall of the Hulks tie in issue of Red Hulk that runs 22 pages a issue, and yet they turn around and charge the same price for the Incredible Hulk which has 30 pages a issue and is the next chapter in the storyline? A retailer tried to explain it to me, but all I heard was blah, blah, blah with the price and quality of paper these days. I didn’t see a difference in the stock of the paper, both seemed the same to me.

    Yeah, I admit – I have a stopwatch near my bed at night to time myself while reading.

    Best bargain of last week for me was Peter Parker # 3 written by Bob Gale. For $2.99 I got 25 pages of story with lots of choice movie quality dialogue scenes that took me nearly 34 minutes to get through.

    I could go on about movies too. Paid 5 bucks to see a matinee showing a couple days back of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Movie ran 2 and a half hours. And considering that I wasn’t familar with the source material, I enjoyed it tremendously more than I did than paying $15.00 to see Iron Man 2.

    Bargains and whatever comics Bob Gale write bring a smile to my face. $3.99 comics do not.

    ~

    Coat

  10. Jim Caldwell says:

    I’m not sure why I’ve become the refreshed target of passive-aggressive criticism from the Beat

    Oh, no! Mom & Dad are fighting again.

  11. TonyJazz says:

    Most comics today can be read in ten minutes or less (Jonah Hex is typically longer, though). Mr. Palmiotti, I appreciate your dilemma, but I just can’t afford that much. If books were $10 (and much ‘richer’), I might buy them. But then, I’d buy 2 or 3 a month, instead of the dozens of titles I consume today.

    The price is a problem. When I spend $3 for a Sunday newspaper, but $4 for a floppy— I just can’t justify buying more floppies…

    I fear the death of an industry, unless this pricing model can be fixed….

  12. I thought the giant typewriter tied in nicely with Abrams’ “Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics” book. (Although the giant typewriter was penciled by Sheldon Moldoff.)

    Also this weekend, Thursday to Sunday across the pond, is the Internationaler Comic-Salon Erlangen, taking place in Erlangen, Germany. It’s a biennial event, a bit like Angouleme without the hotelween.

  13. Brett says:

    $3.99 isn’t bad if the material is worth it.

    That said, there isn’t a single comic I would buy at Marvel for $3.99 and only 2 or 3 titles from DC that I would even ‘consider’
    spending that kind of money on.

    The thing is, over the past decade, 99% of the comics I bought from DC and Marvel’s New Millenium Brigade (anything with Didio, Quesada, Morrison, Geoff Johns, Bendis and Millar’s name) I regretted. No one else wanted them after I read them so all of them ended up in the garbage.

    At this point, I will only spend money on comics that I can ‘Buy With Confidence’ because I don’t mind spending money on a comic, even if I didn’t like or agree with the story, just so long as I feel it is professionally written and drawn.

    Jim Shooter has had his ups and downs during his career but I always feel his work is professional. That means I’ll be buying his upcoming work from Dark Horse, Magnus and Solar.

    The only other two comics I’ll pay that kind of money for is Len Wein’s Legacies at DC, Cary Bates upcoming Superman mini series and Marv Wolfman & George Perez’s Teen Titans Games (which will be more than $3.99 but worth it) again by seasoned professionals.

    Because $3.99 only becomes a problem for me if I’m spending that kind of money on a comic that reads like really bad, amateur fan fiction, which sadly, describes the rest of what’s coming out of DC and Marvel these days.

  14. Charles Knight says:

    I’m sorta of surprised with all of this talk of prices and what’s worth paying for, that The Beat hasn’t covered IDW’s recent announcement that it will release everything digitally a month after the flaccids hit the stores (or did you cover it and I missed it?).

  15. Re: $3.99 price point

    I would rather pick up a comic via comixology’s Comics app (or iVerse’s or Marvel’s) than plunk down money for another comic. $1.99 is a fair price for an old-timer like me who goes into a old man’s rant about the prices of things nowadays every time I see a new Avengers book on the stands. As an unemployed stay-at-home dad, I bring no income in and have to justify every purchase I make for myself to my boss. $2 for a book and I’ve found a bargain, $4 and I get the look. It’s easy math.

    Now if only those apps would allow me to view the comics on my PC…

    Also, if DC would get off its conservative butt and get moving, I’d be happy as well..

  16. I tried to talk Marvel into pricing my new NAMOR book at $4.99, but no luck.

    Kidding! Kidding!

  17. Tim Dillon: Dancing with the Stars season 11 champion.

    Arune Singh: Dancing with the Stars season 11 first runner-up.

  18. Synsidar says:

    I doubt that the anthology approach, thick or thin, would work very well. The multiple art styles in an issue would put off people, and the B&W artwork would look worse than color artwork.

    Forcing writers to do close-ended stories of short or moderate length (fewer pages than a GN would have, anyway) would generally result in terrible stories, I’d think. There would be far too much pressure to use stock situations and characters that didn’t require explanations or any kind of development.

    SRS

  19. There’s ANOTHER name for floppies/pamphlets/monthlies?! I can’t keep up. But seriously, flaccids? WHO thought that one up? It’s so wrong, in so many ways.

    I’ll just stick with good ole’ fashioned “comic book”. :)

  20. Nate Horn says:

    I’m pretty sure at this point someone could call them sandwhich wrappers and I’d know what they were referring to.

  21. Sorry… I was unclear about the stories continuing… My model is to take whatever DC publishes now each week, and offer it as an anthology. So one week there will be a Wonder Woman story, but then you’d have to wait a month for the next chapter of Wonder Woman.

    But now that I think about it… if the series is popular, why not do it weekly? Perhaps the art styles would look different in the collections, but that didn’t hurt the sales of The Death of Superman or Batman: No Man’s Land.

    Perhaps each week there’s a different anthology. “Action” contains Superman as the anchor. “Detective” contains Batman. “Adventure” has other superheroes, and “DC Comics Presents” features miscellaneous characters. Skip weeks feature four different all-reprint specials, one of which is a “Best of” or “fan favorite” issue.

    Does superhero artwork look worse in black and white? I don’t have the originals to compare, but DC has had some success with their Showcase line. (And the classic DC horror titles look even better in black and white!)

    Done-in-one on a newsstand anthology… Wouldn’t that appeal to the casual reader? As for the quality, both Brave and the Bold titles from DC (DCU and Johnny DC) tell excellent stories. If not done-in-one, then a recap page at the beginning of each story would suffice, and allow a space for credits.

    DC is already going the route of original graphic novels. Would the epic event stories be better if editorial had only one deadline instead of eight or twelve? Would the story be easier to follow? Would the story be better if it did not have to follow 22-page chapters? Of course, the first chapter would be presented as a “sneak peek” in one of the anthologies.

    With an anthology, people will buy the issue to get the story or character they want, but then possibly read the other stories in the back of the magazine. That increases awareness for lesser-known characters and creators, and helps increase the sales of the trade collections.

    (Man… if you take the cost per page for Shonen Jump and calculate a 32-page comicbook, the price would be about fifty cents!)

  22. David Riches says:

    Actually you know at least two guys who read Janet Evanovich! I read her too and was there last year when she slipped and broke some bones here in Toronto.
    The character of Stephanie Plum should appeal to more comicbook readers espcially with the way she bounces between Ranger and Moretti! But I don’t want to give away the good parts since a car explodes in almost each Stephanie Plum novel…..

  23. Robert Morales says:

    But aren’t $3.99 comics biodegradable?

  24. Tommy Raiko says:

    “The character of Stephanie Plum should appeal to more comicbook readers espcially with the way she bounces between Ranger and Moretti!”

    I’ve read a few of the Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, too, and remember enjoying them. Perhaps notably, though, the Dark Horse graphic novel she’s doing isn’t with her Stephanie Plum character, but is a story from another of her series and characters. I don’t know if fans of Stephanie Plum are necessarily fans of Alex Barnaby, nor if the same number of folks who’d come out for a Stephanie Plum graphic novel would do the same for a Barnaby one…

  25. Army of Dorkness says:

    “With an anthology, people will buy the issue to get the story or character they want, but then possibly read the other stories in the back of the magazine. ”

    Where are you getting this idea from?! I thought this was mostly about how comicbook readers are gradually becoming less willing or satisfied with paying $3.99 to get the story or character they want and you want them to pay MORE for the character they want and a bunch of other stuff they don’t??

    When you buy an anthology, you don’t think about how great of a cost per page you’re getting. When you’re done reading it you think about how many of the stories you actually liked and how you ended up getting screwed into paying for stuff you didn’t like and in fact paid MORE per page because of all the pages you’d be happy to rip out of the book as a result of dissatisfaction with the product.

    Step One: Make it worth paying for.
    Step Two: Now bicker about the details.
    step Three: Don’t forget to do STEP ONE.

  26. I get the idea from being on DC Comics’ comp list. That box of comics contains every comic DC publishes each month. There are many titles, many of them highly recommended online, which I would never have purchased originally.

    Stuff like Scalped, Power Girl, Sparta… which, if you’ve been following the sales charts here, are worth reading and paying for (Step One), but nobody’s buying them (Step Two)!

    So some people read an anthology and complain about the stuff they didn’t like. Some read it and enjoy their favorite title(s), and delight over something new and original. Some read it for the one story they want, and then pass it on to someone else.

    Some fans are willing to pay $3.99 for Action Comics, others prefer to pay $4.99 for Shonen Jump. 32 pages vs. 376 pages.

    Okay… I forgot… fans don’t want change. They want the same 32-page comic book with the same characters every month. Which is okay, but that black spot in the sky is getting bigger, and the tiny mammals are more likely to survive the coming impact winter than the big lumbering dinosaurs.

  27. How can I get on DC comics’ comp list? ;)

  28. Army of Dorkness says:

    “I get the idea from being on DC Comics’ comp list.”

    You get the idea that people would pay more for an anthology even though they barely want to pay the current price for what they want by…getting free comics?

    I can tell you I wouldn’t pay $5 for 376 pages because sacrifices would have to be made. Somewhere in art or writing or something there will be sacrifices that will probably not sit well with readers… you can’t get 376 American Comicbook pages for $5 and still have these same artists and writers working on these same stories. You’re looking at $25 anthologies like Flight and 24/7, etc…and that’s a lot to ask from a consumer.

    Looking at it another way… say you read Wolverine and there are 4 Wolverine books per month at $4 each but you only want Wolverine(A) and have no interest in Wolverine(B,C,D). WHy would you then pay, let’s say, $10 to get Wolverine Anthology which has all 4 in the same book? It’s a better overall value but not if you do not care about the extra stuff you’re getting…then it becomes a lesser value because you’re paying more to get the same story you want plus a bunch of extra junk you don’t. Now apply that to a Vertigo Anthology where you get an issue of Scalped, Fables, Madame Xanadu, and The Unwritten per anthology… but you only buy Fables every month. What’s the motivation to pay for 3 other stories you have no interest in?

    Rules for Manga, European, and American comics are not interchangable on a widespread basis. Limited basis, sure, maybe. Changing American comics to make them more like Manga is a really bad idea. Ask Marvel about Ultimate Marvel Magazine.

  29. Idea: BEA needs to run an event that’s an amalgamation of Penny Arcade Expo and a traditional sci-fi con. Why not?

  30. Torsten Adair says:

    Trisha…. I haven’t been to the Penny Arcade Expo, but if you mean a mix of trade show and popular culture… New York Comic Con, run by former BEA wrangler Lance Fensterman, has trade show hours on Friday morning. Reed also runs part of PAX.

    Meanwhile, there are massive book festivals across this country: Miami, Los Angeles, Georgia, Texas… Brooklyn has a fledgling show in the Fall. The New Yorker hosts an event-driven festival as well. New York Is Book Country is trying to rise from the dead, but it doesn’t look good…

Speak Your Mind

*